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Social Media & Olympic Dreams 2012

Game changing and monitored, Social Media will make an impact on how we relate to the 2012 London Olympics

I have pretty vivid memories of the 2008 Beijing games. That year, I investigated and joined Facebook with some trepidation. I followed the games with about 100 million “friends” with status updates that ranged from awe-struck performances to critiques of outrageous judges, but considered Google’s Instant Messaging the ultimate in virtual interaction with my friends. 

The 2012 games, however, will be shared among an ever increasing Social Media platform that brings new opportunities and challenges associated with that growth. Facebook alone has over 900 million users as the games begin and along with Twitter, the critique of judges and performances are instantaneous … and personal. Everybody has the possibility of “being on the scene” or at least being able to be part of a historic event with a witty comment.

Whether you consider it free speech or narcissistic attention grabbing, Social Media relationships and interaction have become an ingrained part of our society in the last few years. However, this advent of the many platforms available for interaction this year has created some interesting challenges – and opportunities - for the IOC in London. 

While trying to maintain the spirit of the games and allow participants and fans to share the experience, guidelines for social media use among participants have been set forth. Tweets, Status Updates, Blogs and Pins will be monitored.  

These guidelines for participants and other “accredited persons” states that the “IOC actively encourages and supports athletes and other accredited persons at the Olympic Games to take part in ‘social media’ and to post, blog and tweet their experiences.” These activities are welcome as long as they are not for commercial or advertising purposes or create an association with the Olympic Games. 

While encouraging comments on social media platgorms during the games, they should be of a “personal, first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist.”  Photographs and video/audio are to be those for personal use only.

The Taipei Times lays out the scenario pretty succinctly.  “The explosion of social networking offers huge opportunities to the IOC, but with much of its revenues dependent on the billion-dollar deals agreed with broadcasters, the body overseeing the Games will also have to protect those long-held rights.”

Just as challenging as instantly shared photography and updates, is the advent of marketing and advertising via Social Media outlets. Beyond finding the photo of your favorite Olympian on your box of Wheaties, endorsements and sponsorships of athletes have found their way into their Tweets – not by accident and very much based on the number of followers a particular competitor may have.

On Twitter, you’ll find gymnasts Tweeting about Proctor & Gamble, swimmers touting the benefits of Head & Shoulders, and runners speaking eloquently of their shoes. Financial Times reports that the message of an athlete on social media factors in to WHICH athletes are being sponsored. Endorsement contracts often include clauses that athletes share their experiences with a brand with their fans via social media. 

The IOC guidelines call for specific authorization before participants are allowed to promote a brand or service via any social media outlet.

Finding a balance is going to be tricky, for sure.

If you are looking to keep up with your favorite athlete, sport or team, most already have a Social Media presence and are easy to find. And while I recognize this is the latest in commercialization and marketing, it still feels a bit like stalking. #Donchathink?

Still want to keep up and be the first on your couch to know what's happening in London? Start with a few of these sites. Like them, be a fan, follow them, or just be "a Nony-Mouse lurker" so you'll be able to text your co-workers at the coffee maker the next morning! #OMG #DIDYOUSEETHATDISMOUNT?

(Editor's Note: This first appeared on Snellville Patch.)

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